I am writing here to expand on my comment on Jarlath’s recent blog on inclusion and the special school click here Entitlement? Yes. Inclusion? No There is a debate to be had here and it needs all of us who care about SEND to join in with it.
I stated that inclusion is a double – edged sword and I stand by my view. There are children who genuinely cannot cope in a conventional school setting, and the reasons are numerous…..size, shape and layout of buildings….large numbers of children….insufficient adult ratios…..SEN……the list goes on! This is before we consider children with severe medical and behavioural issues who need access to highly specialised equipment and staff! Whether the ‘inclusionists’ like it or not, we do need separate provision for some children; anything else is downright cruel in my opinion! If they saw the relief on some of the children’s faces when they come to our PRU they would realise that a small, nurturing setting is just what some children need! Not just the kids….the parents too! They are tired of fighting ‘the system’ and it’s a relief for them to see their children happy and settled and making progress in their behaviour and education! I appreciate there may be different issues for children with diagnosed SEN who need small, specialist provision but in essence we are talking about the same things!
Then this morning I added a comment to Laura’s blog in which I urged her to investigate the national scandal of the rising exclusion of young children! They come to us with often undiagnosed SEN and we have an uphill struggle in getting them the help they need. Educational Psychologists are thin on the ground at the moment with the ongoing conversions of Y6 and Y11 statements and we have been told to buy in private support for new EHC plans! I would urge SEND professionals to look at the EdRightsAlliance click on http://twitter.com/era_tweet; and contribute to the discussion . A parent posted a comment which echoed my own thoughts that PRUS can often be a dumping ground for children with SEN…her own autistic children went there for a while when they couldn’t cope any more with mainstream. This is wrong on so many levels……to mix autistic children with SEMH is unfair…they need a different set of strategies; we have had INSET training but we lack the funds and the space to provide properly tailored provision….we are an assessment centre not a special school!
So what of the SEND changes? They seem good, sensible and reasonable at first glance. However scratch beneath the surface and the wheels start to come off big style! Why the insistence on conversions first? In a large county like ours we are talking hundreds! How can EPs focus on new referrals when they are meeting tight deadlines for these?! The criteria have changed too….SEMH not BESD….but there are children who will not be eligible for an EHC plan who need one. Pupils going to special SEMH schools need EHC plans so what if they cannot access mainstream? Will they be doomed to a life of exclusion, passed from one unsuitable school to another? This is already happening in some areas! The percentages for each of the criteria to be met have also been increased….these are not common knowledge yet but it will be much harder to get an EHCP! We need greater transparency because those in the know are already fearing the worst!
There is also the issue of funding in general for schools. It is clearly stated that the first £10,000 of any Plan is provided within school budgets but I have yet to speak to a Headteacher who recognises that! This is a smoke and mirrors exercise which denies children the help they so badly need. I would argue such funds should be ring fenced but it’s not likely to happen because it would quickly become apparent that cuts have been made in other areas; this is cynical and just plain wrong! When schools exclude they often cite money as being an issue ; PRUS are funded in the same way yet we are expected to pay for EPS and generally pick up the pieces of underlying SEN. We are paying for dyslexia and attachment specialists to come in and referring through to CAMHS and other services! As SENCO, that is my remit but it can be too little too late if the kids only come in Y6 !
I am due to attend a SEND day run by Jane McConnell from IPSEA looking at the legal side of all this and I cannot wait! I feel we need to be armed with as much information as we can in being aware of the statutory duties of the various bodies concerned! I heard only last week of an authority which has not published its local offer in clear breach of its mandate. I hope that between us we can keep up to speed with the current changes and hold the relevant agencies to account.
I feel I have dodged the question of what we mean by inclusion and how we can avoid the spread of exclusion but that is a conversation that needs to be had at another time. I want to tackle the system as it is now and iron out the difficulties and inconsistencies that currently exist ; our children are too precious for anything less.
I have been asked to add a key to explain the abbreviations! Sorry…it’s easy to slip into jargon! So here it is:
SEN….special educational needs
SEND….special educational needs and disability
SENCO…..special educational needs co-ordinator
EHCP….education and health and care plans (replacing old statements)
SEMH….social, emotional and mental health…..this replaces
BESD….behavioural, emotional and social difficulties
CAMHS…..children and adolescent mental health services
IPSEA…..a charity which supports parents through the legal maze click here http://www.ipsea.org.uk
Hope this helps!